©Malay Mail (Used by permission)
by JOSEPH SIPALAN
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — The Dewan Rakyat today passed by a majority vote the National Security Council (NSC) Bill 2015 after nearly seven hours of heated debates, amid protests by the opposition and civil society groups against what they claim is a law that would confer wide–ranging powers to the prime minister.
The House passed the Bill on a voice vote at the third and final reading at 10.55pm, after the opposition failed to stop the Bill at the policy stage debate in a bloc vote with 107 voting for and 74 against the Bill.
Earlier when winding up points raised during the policy stage debate, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim denied claims by the opposition bench that the Bill is a ploy to confer powers on the prime minister to declare a state of emergency without needing to seek the consent of the Yang di–Pertuan Agong.
He admitted that they may not have had sufficient time to read through the Bill as it was only tabled on Tuesday, but insisted that they had wrongly interpreted provisions within the Bill.
“The prime minister is not declaring an emergency; he is declaring a security area. We are declaring specific security areas where there are threats to the public,” he told the House after repeated interjections from opposition members arguing that it is similar to provisions outlined in the Federal Constitution regarding emergency declarations.
Shahidan insisted that the provisions for declaring an emergency under the Federal Constitution deals with a large–scale crises, while the Bill deals with specific instances of threats to security in specific areas.
Opposition MPs had during the earlier debate claimed that conferring the prime minister powers to declare a security area would circumvent the constitutional requirement to convince the Agong to declare an emergency, which would be done at the advice of the federal Cabinet.
Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee also rejected a motion raised by Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng – who sought to defer the vote and refer the Bill to a select committee – on grounds that the motion should have been raised before the House voted on the Bill at the policy stage.
The National Security Council Bill 2015, which was tabled by Shahidan on Tuesday, proposes to allow the National Security Council (NSC) – which would be chaired by the prime minister – to take command of the country’s security forces and impose strict policing of areas deemed to face security risks.
According to the Bill, the NSC’s jurisdiction takes effect once the prime minister designates a location as a “security area” — a status that is valid for six months at a time, subject to renewal by the prime minister.
Once the NSC takes over control of a security area, security forces will have the right to search or arrest without warrant any individual “found committing, alleged to have committed, or reasonably suspected of having committed any offence under written laws in the security area”.
The Bill also seeks to empower security forces to arrest without warrant and take action against those who do not abide by an evacuation order from a security area, and also carry out searches of any vehicle or premise within the security area without a warrant.